Trump Still Lacks a White House Science Advisor, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director & Chief Technology Officer, Among Others
Washington, D.C. – Today, in advance of the March for Science, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined six of her colleagues in urging President Trump to appoint well-qualified experts for critical science posts at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and throughout the federal government.
Nearly 100 days into his presidency, President Trump still has not appointed a science advisor, director for the White House OSTP, or a Chief Technology Officer. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is reportedly severely short-staffed, is a critical office responsible for advising the President on scientific and technical matters related to national security, the economy, innovation, and many other aspects of American life. Earlier this month, former science advisor and OSTP Director John Holdren penned an op-ed explaining why it is so important that the President fill these positions.
“Science and technology are central to both the challenges and opportunities America faces in the 21st century,” the Senators wrote. “Without adequate OSTP staffing, the country will lack key insights from those with deep experience in these fields,” adding, “We urge you to nominate well-qualified experts to these and other key science and technology positions within your administration. OSTP leaders must be able to fulfill the Office’s mission of providing accurate, relevant and timely scientific and technological advice to the president and help ensure that federal policy is informed by sound science.”
The letter was led by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and co-signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear President Trump:
We write to express our strong support for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). For decades, OSTP has advised the president on scientific and technical matters related to national security, the economy, innovation, and many other aspects of American life. These issues are priorities for the nation, and we believe the country would be well served if you promptly nominate and appoint well-qualified experts to these key positions. As members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, we look forward to receiving and reviewing nominations that require Senate approval.
Science and technology are central to both the challenges and opportunities America faces in the 21st century. Cyber warfare, for example, poses a serious threat to our national and economic security, prompting the need for a government-wide response, with buy-in from the private sector. Science and technology are also changing our economy, and many of the fastest-growing jobs in the country require training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Despite these opportunities, the United States is not producing enough qualified new STEM graduates to meet workforce needs. Furthermore, U.S. technological leadership faces significant pressure as other nations increase their research investments. The U.S. private sector’s difficulty in sustaining long-term basic research investments combined with decreasing federal support for R&D risks the nation’s technology advantage.
These potentially revolutionary changes require foresight, planning, and continued U.S. leadership in science and technology. OSTP can provide your administration with expert advice from within government and facilitate discussion with the private sector and academia. OSTP can also convene experts from across Federal agencies to ensure a whole of government approach to national issues. In addition, many agencies play a role in the U.S. science enterprise, and a body to oversee these activities ensures minimal duplication. The Office’s recent work has covered cybersecurity, nanotechnology, STEM education, and automation and artificial intelligence – all areas in which the country will continue to need sound guidance in the coming years.
Without adequate OSTP staffing, the country will lack key insights from those with deep experience in these fields. We understand that few staff are currently assigned to OSTP, with only one staff member in the Office of the White House Chief Technology Officer as of last month – a position recently authorized by Congress. Moreover, you have yet to name a science advisor, OSTP director, or Chief Technology Officer. Most OSTP staff are detailed from other Federal agencies, so a build up of staff to OSTP will not require a large influx of new government employees.
We urge you to nominate well-qualified experts to these and other key science and technology positions within your administration. OSTP leaders must be able to fulfill the Office’s mission of providing accurate, relevant and timely scientific and technological advice to the president and help ensure that federal policy is informed by sound science. They must have strong scientific and technical backgrounds and understand the scientific method and the need for evidence-based science. They must also be nationally recognized and respected experts with connections to the broader scientific and technology communities so that they can be conduits for the scientific and technical expertise of the nation. As members of the Senate committee of jurisdiction, we pledge to carefully review nominees for these positions who fulfill these criteria.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Science and technology are essential to many of the key issues we face, and we believe the nation will be well served by having well-qualified experts at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and throughout the federal government.